SYDNEY — Samoa said it would reopen schools and end restrictions on public gatherings as it lifted a six-week state of emergency in the aftermath of a measles epidemic that left scores of children and babies dead.

Since September, over 5,600 measles cases have been recorded in the Pacific island nation of about 200,000 people, the Health Ministry said. At least 81 people have died, many of them younger than 5.

Measles is one of the most contagious diseases, and no one was untouched.

The disease has resurfaced globally as vaccination rates have fallen, experts said.

In 2013, about 90 percent of Samoan infants got the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine by their first birthday. But by last year, the rate had dropped to 30 percent. When two infants died after nurses inadvertently mixed the vaccine with muscle relaxant instead of sterile water, the country temporarily suspended the vaccination program.


That, coupled with misinformation about vaccine safety, left children under 5 particularly susceptible, the World Health Organization said.

Under the state of emergency, schools were closed, children were banned from gatherings, and vaccinations were made compulsory. Officials said 95 percent of eligible people had been vaccinated.

New York Times